Procurement Minister Jean-Yves Duclos says his department is examining whether there is a widespread problem throughout government with inflated résumés as part of its review of three IT staffing firms facing allegations of wrongdoing related to their work on federal contracts.
Mr. Duclos made the comments Tuesday to MPs on the government operations committee, which is holding hearings into allegations of misconduct related to federal contracts. The allegations are being investigated by the RCMP.
The Canada Border Services Agency has temporarily suspended all contract work with the three firms – Coradix, Dalian and GCStrategies – while a review is under way. The three companies have altogether received nearly half a billion dollars in federal outsourcing work over the past decade.
The allegations centre on contracts with layers of subcontracting that hide key details about who is getting paid for what, cozy ties between private staffing firms and the public servants who hire them – as well as falsified résumés.
“Given the nature of the allegations, my department has asked for all officials responsible for security in all departments with active contracts with these companies to verify that the CVs of consultants connected to these contracts are accurate and free of exaggeration,” Mr. Duclos said in French. “After this, officials will determine whether exaggeration of CVs is a more generalized problem. If that’s the case, actions will be taken.”
Mr. Duclos said his department has also taken steps to more thoroughly review CVs in the contracting process and to improve procurement training.
The allegations were originally raised privately by the two co-founders of a Montreal software company called Botler that performed work for the Canada Border Services Agency. The CBSA and Mr. Duclos’s procurement department had shared responsibility for the contract work.
Botler co-founders Ritika Dutt and Amir Morv submitted a detailed report to the CBSA in November, 2022, that included several allegations, including that other contractors inflated their work experience in reporting to the government.
The CBSA referred the allegations to the RCMP and the national police force has said it has launched an investigation. The government operations committee is holding hearings into the allegations as part of its study into how the cost of the ArriveCan app grew to in excess of $54-million.
Botler did not work on ArriveCan, but the company worked with many of the same private consultants and CBSA officials who were key in developing the app for international travellers. Botler worked closely with GCStrategies and was later surprised to learn that its work was funded through a general contract involving two other companies: Coradix and Dalian.
The three IT staffing companies win federal contracts and then find subcontractors to do the work and collect a commission. GCStrategies has said it typically charges 15 per cent to 30 per cent of the contract value.
Both GCStrategies and Dalian have said they each have just two employees, while Coradix has said it has more than 40 employees. Coradix and Dalian share office space and frequently work together.
Through a series of committee hearings into the allegations, the leaders of the three companies confirmed to MPs that altered résumés were submitted, but insisted it was an oversight.
GCStrategies managing partner Kristian Firth told MPs earlier this month that he personally submitted inflated work experience related to Botler.
A few days after Mr. Firth’s committee appearance, Public Services and Procurement Canada and the CBSA jointly announced that the agency was temporarily suspending all contracts with the three IT staffing firms.
The PSPC provided an e-mailed statement indicating that the three companies can continue working with other departments while the review is under way.
Opposition MPs asked Mr. Duclos on Tuesday why he has not approved a government-wide suspension of the three companies, and GCStrategies in particular.
“You as the Procurement Minister have the authority to stop the use of this company,” said Conservative MP Stephanie Kusie. “Yet you’re refusing to do so … This is just completely unacceptable.”
In response to a similar question from NDP MP Gord Johns, Arianne Reza, the deputy minister of Public Services and Procurement Canada, said the reviews need to run their course.
“We have these allegations which are under investigation by CBSA and with the RCMP. Until the investigation is done, it’s very hard for us to actually control everything because there is a level of due diligence and due process that’s allowed,” she said.
After his appearance, Mr. Duclos told The Globe and Mail that the hearings into federal contracting raise questions as to what is the appropriate level of profit that private IT staffing firms should collect for finding short-term staff for federal departments.
“We’ll be digging more deeply into this,” he said. “It does trigger a need to think more carefully about how we engage leaning forward in the IT world.”
GCStrategies received about $11-million to work on the ArriveCan project.
The government operations committee has heard dramatic and contradictory testimony from two senior government officials – Minh Doan and Cameron MacDonald – as to who hired GCStrategies to work on the app.
Mr. Doan, a former CBSA vice-president who is now the chief technology officer of the federal government, originally told the committee that while his team at the CBSA selected the company, he didn’t know who specifically made that decision.
Mr. MacDonald, who worked on ArriveCan under Mr. Doan at the CBSA and is now an assistant deputy minister at Health Canada, then told MPs that his former superior lied and that Mr. Doan was the one who made the decision. He also said that Mr. Doan threatened him last year during a discussion about what MPs should tell the committee about ArriveCan.
Mr. Doan was called back to testify under oath, where he denied threatening Mr. MacDonald and insisted he still didn’t know who hired GCStrategies.